Herpesviruses cross nuclear membranes (NMs) in two steps, as follows: (i) capsids assemble and bud through the inner NM into the perinuclear space, producing enveloped virus particles, and (ii) the envelopes of these virus particles fuse with the outer NM. Two herpes simplex virus (HSV) glycoproteins, gB and gH (the latter, likely complexed as a heterodimer with gL), are necessary for the second step of this process. Mutants lacking both gB and gH accumulate in the perinuclear space or in herniations (membrane vesicles derived from the inner NM). Both gB and gH/gL are also known to act directly in fusing the virion envelope with host cell membranes during HSV entry into cells, i.e., both glycoproteins appear to function directly in different aspects of the membrane fusion process. We hypothesized that HSV gB and gH/gL also act directly in the membrane fusion that occurs during virus egress from the nucleus. Previous studies of the role of gB and gH/gL in nuclear egress involved HSV gB and gH null mutants that could potentially also possess gross defects in the virion envelope. Here, we produced recombinant HSV-expressing mutant forms of gB with single amino acid substitutions in the hydrophobic "fusion loops." These fusion loops are thought to play a direct role in membrane fusion by insertion into cellular membranes. HSV recombinants expressing gB with any one of four fusion loop mutations (W174R, W174Y, Y179K, and A261D) were unable to enter cells. Moreover, two of the mutants, W174Y and Y179K, displayed reduced abilities to mediate HSV cell-to-cell spread, and W174R and A261D exhibited no spread. All mutant viruses exhibited defects in nuclear egress, enveloped virions accumulated in herniations and in the perinuclear space, and fewer enveloped virions were detected on cell surfaces. These results support the hypothesis that gB functions directly to mediate the fusion between perinuclear virus particles and the outer NM.
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